Historical Victorian homes open their doors for the holidays
Victorian homes seem to exude a special charm during the colder months, implicit with the promises of a crackling fireplace, vintage overstuffed furniture and the high spirit of the holidays alive inside.
Passing by, one often sees the flickering of the lights in the windows and feels a whispered invitation to stop in and warm up.
On Dec. 5, from noon to 6 p.m., many of these enduring buildings will open their crown-molded doors to the public for the 20th annual Victorian Home Christmas Tour, featuring 15 locations in downtown Carson City – one of the West’s largest districts of 1800s Victorian homes.
“All will be decorated in classic, turn-of-the-century holiday style,” according to Candy Duncan of the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Though the haps and hazards of the silver business built many of the downtown treasures, it was the fateful decision of Carson City to host the territorial Legislature for free some 130 years ago that helped ensure their survival, notes Susan Ballew, president of the Carson City Historical Society. It helped keep Carson City on the map, even during the mining bust years.
The ornate drama of Victorian architectural gilds such as railed porches, verandahs, turrets and balustrades evoke the get-rich-quick atmosphere of Carson City during the good ol’ days. The homes’ preservation is a testament to the realization of Carson City as state capital in the modern era, ensuring more of the good ol’ days are still to come.
Proceeds from the holiday tours go to the nonprofit Historical Society and its efforts to maintain the Roberts House Museum and effort to build a carriage house behind it.
“Costumed docents will be on hand to share the history behind each of the featured buildings – a collection that includes homes, century-old schools, churches and businesses,” Duncan said. “Refreshments and period-style entertainment will be provided inside selected dwellings.”
The tour begins on the east side of Carson City at the J.D. Roberts House, 1207 North Carson St.
“Spending about 20 minutes at each place, we figure the self-guided tour will take at least a few hours,” Ballew said.
Highlights include the Bliss Mansion, home of Duane Bliss, a lumber and railroad magnate; the Orion Clemens House, home of Nevada’s first territorial secretary and frequent destination of his brother Mark Twain; the Krebbs-Peterson House, where John Wayne filmed his final movie, “The Shootist”; and the First Methodist Church, notable not only for its beauty, but because the land that it sits on was purchased in 1867 for a pair of boots and $25, according to Duncan.
“We’ve got McAvoy Lane playing Mark Twain at the old Clemens House,” Ballew said. “He does a really wonderful job. Everybody just loves him.”
From “the wooden town,” as Mark Twain describes them in his novel “Roughing It,” “nestled in the edge of a great plain … in the shadow of a grim range of mountains overlooking it,” to the bustling valley of today, the Victorian homes of downtown Carson City have seen it all and will put anyone in the holiday spirit.
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.
IF YOU GO
What: Victorian Home Christmas Tour
When: noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 5
Tickets: Can be purchased at the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau tourism office, Bookcellar and the Cloth Cottage, or at the Roberts House Museum the day of the tour.
Where: Starts at J.D. Roberts House, 1207 North Carson St.
Cost: $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, $5 for ages 5 to 12, 5 and under free.